Doctor uses stethoscope to check a baby's heartbeat

What are Arrhythmias?

An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm caused by irregular electrical impulses. A heart with an impaired electrical system may beat too fast, too slow, or unsteadily. When the heart’s electrical system fails to work properly, you may feel your heart flutter or “skip a beat.” Arrhythmias are very common and most cases are harmless, but some cases are very serious depending on the severity of symptoms.

What Causes Arrhythmias?

Arrhythmias can be caused by many different things. Caffeine, alcohol, and medications can all affect your heart’s electrical system, leading to heart palpitations. Some people are born with a heart problem that causes arrhythmias or develop irregular heartbeats later on from infections, exercise, or intense emotions. People who have heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes have a higher chance of developing an arrhythmia.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Fluttering or irregular heartbeat
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Collapse and cardiac arrest
  • Heart failure

Visit your doctor to receive a proper diagnosis.

Should I Seek Help?

Many cases of arrhythmias do not require treatment, but more severe cases can lead to serious complications. Irregular heartbeats can make it difficult to pump blood to other parts of your body, causing damage to organs. Visit your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your heart.

If you have arrhythmias, follow your doctor’s advice. If your symptoms worsen, you start having new symptoms, or you need help managing stress, let your doctor know. If you suspect you are having heart failure, heart attack, or stroke, go to the nearest emergency department. Severe cases of arrhythmias can result in sudden cardiac death.

How Do I Live With Arrhythmias?

Talk with your doctor to learn what you need to do to live a healthy life with an irregular heartbeat. Your healthcare provider may recommend avoiding caffeine and alcohol and managing your stress. Be sure to take medication as prescribed. If your case is severe, your doctor may recommend having a procedure, like cardioversion or ablation, or implanting a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). If you experience symptoms that cause concern, go to the ER or call 911.

Follow your doctor’s advice and take care of yourself. For any emergency, visit your nearest CHI St. Luke’s Health emergency department.

Sources:
American Heart Association
Arrhythmias
Arrhythmias in Children